Schoenfeld: Can new technology bring baseball’s data revolution to fielding?

From Bruce Shoenfeld at the New York Times on September 30, 2016, with mention of SABR members Bill James, Tom Tippett, and Dave Dombrowski:

Wearing a plaid flannel shirt and a backward Astros cap, Daren Willman went upstairs in his home just outside Houston one Sunday afternoon this summer. He sat down behind a tabletop desk in an office decorated with framed sports jerseys and flicked on a TV across the room. “I’m at work,” he said.

For the next two hours, Willman toggled between major-league baseball games while monitoring his Twitter feed. This is essentially what he does every day during the season. After a few minutes, he noticed that a Pittsburgh radio commentator, David Todd, had criticized the Pirates’ center fielder, Andrew McCutchen. “Another misplay by McCutchen,” Todd tweeted. “Have to make that play.”

Willman pulled up numbers on his laptop. Then he retweeted Todd’s comment to his own nearly 27,000 followers — including fans, some journalists and employees from every big-league team — and added information that only he and a few others with access to a technological tool called Statcast could produce: Based on the ball’s flight and where McCutchen started the play, a fielder makes a putout in that situation 62 percent of the time. When Todd saw Willman’s response, he tweeted back a question about another ball that had also eluded McCutchen, in the first inning. Within moments, Willman had the pertinent Statcast data on his screen. “That one is caught 74 percent of the time,” he responded.

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Originally published: September 30, 2016. Last Updated: September 30, 2016.